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For Fitness OG Barry’s, Inclusivity Isn’t a Buzzword, It’s a Founding Principle
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For Fitness OG Barry’s, Inclusivity Isn’t a Buzzword, It’s a Founding Principle

LGBTQ+ founded and led for over 25 years, the boutique fitness giant is just as committed to championing inclusivity today as it was in the late 90s

Barry’s was founded in Los Angeles by Barry Jay, John Mumford and Rachel Mumford in 1998, one of the world’s first boutique fitness brands. It’s also one of the most committed to supporting and welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2004, Joey Gonzalez joined the HIIT-focused group fitness brand as an instructor and soon began to climb the ranks to his current position as CEO. The company expanded, first to New York City and then to Bergen, Norway, the Hamptons, and London, all in the course of a few years. Today, Barry’s counts 88 studios across 14 countries, including 36 international locations, and is eyeing many more.

As the company began to scale, Barry’s started celebrating LGBTQ+ communities more proactively. 

“Barry’s has been LGBTQ+ founded and led for almost 26 years, which makes the community connection not only authentic but foundational,” Gonzalez tells Athletech News. “When the first studio opened back in West Hollywood in 1998, inclusivity was not widely accepted, and brands weren’t proactively trying to celebrate LGBTQ+ people the way Barry’s did.”

credit: Barry’s

Gonzalez notes that in its early days, Barry’s “deliberately chose” to place studios in neighborhoods like Hillcrest in San Diego and Chelsea in New York, areas that were “historically recognized as gay neighborhoods.”

“The combination of our pro-LGBTQ+ messaging and geographical locations made the brand a household name among the community,” he says.

credit: Barry’s

A Tangible Commitment

Today, Barry’s is led by Gonzalez and Jonathan (JJ) Gantt, both members of the LGBTQ+ community. The brand’s close ties to the community are not only evident in marketing and messaging, but also in operational decision-making.

“Earlier this year we hosted a “LIFT” pop-up at Aspen Gay Ski Week,” Gantt tells ATN. “We create inclusive communities across the globe that not only serve as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community but also authentically celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. “

“We also integrate support of LGBTQ+ causes into our campaigns and partnerships – like our United We Barry’s challenge that provides support for StartOut, and our partnership with HBO Max’s Emmy-winning series ‘We’re Here’ for Pride-themed classes across the country with surprise Drag Queen appearances,” he adds.

Gantt was promoted to co-CEO in March after taking on roles like chief financial officer and then president. He was influenced to join Barry’s because of the brand’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I was not always able to be my authentic self in the workplace in prior roles, but at Barry’s, my sexual identity is not only recognized, it is celebrated,” Gantt says. “When you cannot be your authentic self, it is impossible to show up as your best in the workplace.  I am immensely proud of this organization and our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.” 

JJ Gantt (credit: Barry’s)

Finding Real Ways To Drive Change

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Barry’s has a notable partnership with StartOut, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

“LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are at a significant disadvantage and underrepresented, and StartOut is dedicated to ensuring this community has the support and resources they need to fairly compete in today’s business world,” Gonzalez explains. “As someone who is in this space and has seen these challenges firsthand, StartOut’s mission and vision are near to my heart.”

Barry’s also has special fitness programming to celebrate Pride Month. Throughout June, Barry’s members who complete six, 10, or 20 classes will receive special rewards like online retail credit, gifts and Academy Stars, which are redeemable points at store locations. Although its message of inclusivity is amplified during Pride Month, the brand wants to create a safe space all year round. 

“It’s not enough to say your space is ‘safe,’ you need to make an effort to ensure people see themselves represented in your marketing as well as your core customer,” Gonzalez says. “The expectation today is that marginalized communities are striving to feel seen, heard, and celebrated- not just safe.” 

credit: Barry’s

As it continues to expand across the globe, consumers can expect Barry’s to continue its efforts to make fitness more inclusive.

“Since the inception of Barry’s, the Red Room and our studios have been a beacon of hope and a home to the LGBTQ+ community,” Gantt says. “We have tried our best to spread the message of equality and inclusivity since day one and make sure our community feels seen, heard, and loved. I believe we can all continue to raise our voices in collective support of the LGBTQ+ community.  We can also increase our support of organizations and causes that continue to fight for and defend LGBTQ+ rights.”  

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